MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 8) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of Team Valspar returned to his winning ways this weekend at the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals, bagging his 18th elimination round victory of the year in Round 1. But the lucky...
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 8) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of Team Valspar returned to his winning ways this weekend at the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals, bagging his 18th elimination round victory of the year in Round 1. But the lucky streak he's been riding since he earned the provisional pole here Friday evening -- with a borrowed motor no less -- ran out in Sunday's second session.
After qualifying with a career best lap of 6.836 seconds at 198.96 mph, which is the sixth quickest quarter-mile lap of all-time, Stevens and crew roared into today's sudden-death racing full of confidence. The 22-year-old opened against veteran Mark Osborne and quickly dismissed the long-time competitor by a 6.887-second to 6.927-second margin.
The win set up a quarterfinal showdown with seasoned pro Bruce Allen. In that round, Stevens got a huge jump at the starting line -- .428 to .455 seconds -- but was caught and passed on the strip with Allen carding a 6.870-second lap at 199.08 mph in front of Stevens' 6.909-second run at 197.48 mph.
"In the first round the car went straight down the track," Stevens said. "Absolutely no problems. We left first and led the race all the way down the strip. But when we came back up and ran the second lap that thing was just spinning like crazy from third gear on. The car was moving from one side of the track to the other. I would coax it back into the groove but it just went right over to the other side. It just wouldn't hook up.
"I really wanted to go some rounds today. We got past the first round, which is always the toughest one, and I thought we'd be cruising. I even cut a great light in Round 2 but it just wasn't enough because the car wanted to skate all over the place.
"At least all of the guys ahead of me in the points didn't go anywhere. Nobody gained ground on me and I was able to put another round between me and the guy behind me. Still, I was hoping to close the gap a little because we're down to three race now."
Stevens could have been in big trouble this weekend after finding himself without an operational motor after the first round of qualifying Friday. But fellow racer Ron Krisher graciously lent him a motor and he was able to continue.
"If not for Ron, we would have really been in trouble," Stevens said. "When you consider everything that happened this weekend, I'm very glad we were able to compete and hold our ground in the points race. We're actually very lucky to be here at all."
Same-day coverage of the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals elimination rounds will begin at 5:30 p.m. (ET), today, on Speedvision.